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How to Stretch Your Money Living in a City

It should come as no surprise that it costs a pretty penny to live a comfortable life in the United States. What has relatively recently become a hot topic in politics over the last few years is just how high the cost of living is and the realization that Americans, especially millennials, do not have the income to support it. As of 2018, 82% of Americans lived in urban cities and is projected to grow to 90% by 2050. While wages have increased by 67% since 1970, this rate hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation and has made large expenses—rent, purchasing a home, buying a car, affording healthcare, etc.—far more unattainable and taking longer to achieve than in previous years. For example, to live reasonably in New York City (a city of 8.6 million), one would have to make roughly $87,000 a year; yet, the median income in NYC is only $53,000.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to the glamour and glitz of the Big Apple. Over 150 U.S. cities have median incomes at least $20,000 above the average median income in the country of $48,000. With such a large gap between reality and expectation, cutting expenses is a necessary skill. Here are some tips that can create more room in your budget to truly enjoy the big city life!

1. Keep record of your expenses.
Keeping a written record of your daily expenses can easily help to identify where your money is going that could be used better elsewhere. Do this for a week straight and you’re guaranteed to find some ways to reallocate your spending.

2. Don’t be afraid to live in a less expensive neighborhood!
After securing a well-paying job, you may want to splurge on an apartment in the heart of the city or in a more expensive and nicer part of town. Consider all your options, including lower-cost housing. While roommates are certainly a great option to cut the cost of rent and utilities, if you’re craving independence, save some money with lower rent options.

3. Rent out when you’re away.
Housing again! Taking an extended vacation or visiting family for the holidays? Putting your place up on Airbnb or a similar platform could bring in some extra income!

4. Take the bus! Or the subway! Or a bike!
In big cities, especially cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., cars prove to be more of a hassle than helpful. If your city has a sustainable public transit system, look at the routing options and see if it fits your schedule. Not only will you spend less money on a MetroCard than gas, a car note, and insurance, you’ll also be helping decrease greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere!

5. Take take-out out of your budget!
With apps like Postmates, UberEats, and Doordash available on top of current restaurant delivery services, eating out is incredibly easy and less time-consuming than cooking. Eating out on a regular basis, however, can add up quickly. Instead, take the same money and buy groceries! Not only will you save overall by cooking multiple meals with the same amount of money

6. Negotiate!
The art of negotiation is a vastly underrated and underused skill in the twenty-first century. Contractors are looking for reliable renters to live in their properties. If you prove yourself with timely payments over a considerable amount of time, think about negotiating your rent price. The same can be done with utilities.

7. Google it!
When moving to a big city, getting out and exploring is probably high on your list. If you’re looking to stay on budget, research free or low-cost local options for a cultural excursion! Whether it’s visiting a museum or doing a walking tour downtown, there’s definitely a fun weekend activity available without breaking your bank!